Sudan-South Sudan Negotiations: Security, Oil, and a Looming Deadline

Sudan and South Sudan recently resumed their on-again, off-again negotiations, although South Sudan cancelled a face-to-face meeting over the weekend in protest over a northern airstrike on a South Sudanese village (more on this below). The United Nations has demanded that the two sides reach agreements on critical issues like border demarcation and oil transit fees by August 2. They are set to return to negotiations today. Yesterday the media reported on a major offer from South Sudan, which Sudan has apparently rejected, at least for now.

The offer from Juba:

South Sudan has offered its neighbour Sudan more than $3bn (£2bn) in compensation for economic losses caused by the South’s independence.

[...]

Juba also proposes an increased transit fee to move its oil through Sudan and says it will waive its claim to nearly $5bn it says it is owed by Khartoum.

[...]

South Sudan’s chief negotiator, Pagan Amum, said Juba had tabled its “last offer”.

Juba’s offer for the transit fee, Al Jazeera says, would come out to $9.10 a barrel, whereas Khartoum has asked for $36 in the past. Al Jazeera has more on the response by Khartoum.

Sudan…dismissed the offer, saying that security remained their top priority and that issues such as South Sudan’s alleged backing of rebels should therefore be settled before other issues are tackled.

“We think security is a prerequisite,” Mutrif Siddiq, a member of Khartoum’s delegation taking part to the talks in the Ethiopian capital told reporters.

He ruled out any comprehensive deal by the August 2 deadline but said he remained hopeful in the longer term.

“It is impossible to be done within… nine or 90 days, some issues need more time to be discussed and be resolved,” Siddiq said.

Is Sudan crazy not to accept the offer immediately? One reason for the refusal may be domestic politics, of both the armed and the verbal varieties. Last week’s airstrike, Khartoum says, targeted the Darfur-based rebel group the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). According to Khartoum, the strike occurred within Sudanese territory. Yesterday the Sudanese army and the JEM fought again near the border. Leaders from the opposition Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, currently part of the government but perhaps not for long) used strident rhetoric to criticize South Sudan’s cancellation of the negotiations, describing the move as “political tactic” to provide cover for the JEM. The DUP blasted (Arabic) the Sudanese government’s alleged “haste and prostration in the dialogue with the South.” Tough talk coming from opposition parties and likely from within the regime, combined with active combat in and near Sudan, may help drive the regime’s security-first, hardline stance.

I am now wondering whether the deadline will be extended. I believe that Sudan needs an agreement almost as badly as South Sudan does, but Khartoum has multiple priorities and pressures to sort out. It takes two sides to make an agreement, and Sudan seems ready to let the deadline expire without one.

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5 thoughts on “Sudan-South Sudan Negotiations: Security, Oil, and a Looming Deadline

  1. It could suggest several different things. It’s possible that the Sudanese government feels that the South Sudan is in a worse position and so they can afford to play chicken*. The Sudanese military may feel that they need real victories, especially if South Sudan is backing Darfuri separatists. Obviously there’s also the D.U.P. to consider (why do some many political parties share similar names?). Lastly this might mean that the Sudanese government isn’t that worried about the Sudanese protesters if they’re publicly walking away from talks.

    *For non-American readers who may not know, chicken is a rather idiotic game where two people drive their cars either at each other or toward a cliff and the one to veer away first loses.

  2. Pingback: Sudan-South Sudan: After Tentative Oil Agreement, Focus of Talks Turns to Security | Sahel Blog

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